Pitt Coverage sponsored by Arsenal Cider House
It was Star Wars night at Heinz field Thursday and the only thing stranger than what could be found in the Cantina Scene of the movie was what we saw on the field. Fumbles in the end zone, kickoff returns, flee flickers… the Tarheels brought it all but the kitchen sink. Pitt countered with a big game from Hall, but in the end It was a poor start and lousy finish by the offense that culminated in a loss for the Panthers. North Carolina beat Pitt at home by the final score of 34-31.
The first half of Thursday Night’s game was full of Panther blunders which included giving up the opening kickoff touchdown. A fumble into the endzone by Henderson that went from a Sure Panthers TD to a field goal on the other side of the field for Carolina. A flee flicker that turned into a long touchdown pass against Pitt’s secondary. All of that occurred and Pitt was still down only 7 at half.
Pitt’s Darrin Hall played extremely well tonight as He would finish with 2 touchdowns and 64 yards in the first half and double that in the second. He also accounted for 30 yard reception in that first half.
Ben DiNucci started the game in awful fashion missing wide open receivers going 1-4. He would finish the half 6-9 for 87 yards. There were downfield opportunities for him but he either passed them up or missed them early. He would finish the game 11-17 for 142 yards. He had only 2 vertical pass completions for the game. The rest were swing passes and quick outs. He looked to run most of the game as he finished with 103 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
Down 21-17, Pitt was driving deep into Tarheel territory when they called a jet sweep to Henderson at the 4. It was from there he broke around the left side towards the pile on, but would fumble into the endzone. The ball was left on the ground and a North Carolina defender was left alone to pick the ball up, and returned it 66 yards. The offense was not able to move the ball at all, but Freeman Jones kicked the ball 51 yards into the open end of the field to extend the lead to 24-17.
The Highlight for the Panthers in the first half was a fake handoff to Hall that turned into the wheel route to him 30 yards down field. Hall would catch the ball, but the pass was thrown so short he had to wait on it which allowed the defense to catch up to him. Hall would score shortly after on a 1 yard run.
Pitt gave up 24 points on 170 yards of offense. The big play was the 98 yard opening kickoff return for North Carolina.
The second half was more disappointing for Pitt as they had two leads, but could not hold on. The difference in not just the second half but the game was missed tackles, big plays, and missed opportunities on offense.
Darrin Hall would finish the game with 121 yards rushing on 23 attempts with 4 touchdowns. The last time the Panthers had a running back go for 4 touchdowns, was against the Tarheels on the road and they lost 40-35. Tonight was another one of those offensive driven games.
Pitt has lost several of their games this season with bad 3rd quarters, today was different at least from an offensive stand point. Though it was the fourth quarter where they went away from running Hall and put the Ball in DiNucci’s hands to make plays. Which is a mistake by all account as he was not able too.
To put it plainly, DiNucci looked awful early, and then late. That is when North Carolina got their lead, and then won the game.
Defensively, they took a step back from nearly every perspective. They could not tackle, throughout the game and Quarterback Nathan Elliot looked like a 3 year starter for his 2nd career start. Coach Narduzzi will need to take a good hard look at his team for the remainder of the season and evaluate what needs to happen next.
Coach Narduzzi said it was a dissappointing game. He said they gave it away. Started from the opening kickoff. Then he talked about fumbling at the 1. He said the poor play gave them 17 points, and no team is good enough to come back from that, especially not this team. He said that North Carolina went to a different front in that fourth quarter which negated their ability to run, at least from a play calling standpoint… he said he will look at the tape. When talking about his defensive secondary, he said it did not help not having Avonte Maddox out on the field.
It was a quick post game, Coach Narduzzi was ticked off and you could see that.